Top 5 Surprising Foods You May Have Never Tasted: Parsnips
Parsnips may look like a carrot, but they have a taste all their own. This root vegetable is characterized by its sweet, nutty flavor and celerylike scent. After harvesting parsnips, farmers usually expose the roots to cold weather for a couple of weeks to allow the starch in the vegetable to turn to sugar, to make them sweeter and tastier. They're easy to prepare, and make a great low-calorie substitute for potatoes or pasta. The vitamin C, fiber and magnesium contained in parsnips will undoubtedly make you feel good about inviting them to your table.
Parsnips are a good source of fiber and vitamin C. One-half cup of cooked parsnips contains just over 3 grams of fiber and almost 17 percent of the Daily Value for vitamin C. They also have over 6 percent of the Daily Value of copper and magnesium.
Vitamin C, an antioxidant, is known to help stop the cellular damage caused by free radicals, which have been shown to contribute to cancer, cataracts and heart disease. Vitamin C enhances the immune system, has been shown to fight fatigue and may even help control blood pressure.
The insoluble fiber in parsnips can help relieve a number of intestinal problems, from constipation and hemorrhoids to diverticulosis, a colon disorder. By binding and adding bulk to the stool, insoluble fiber helps speed digestion. Although there have been conflicting reports, this process may also help reduce the risk of colon cancer.
The soluble fiber in parsnips, including the type called pectin, breaks down to form a gellike barrier in the small intestine. Scientific studies show that soluble fiber and pectin can help lower cholesterol and control blood sugar in diabetics.
Magnesium and Copper
The magnesium in parsnips helps turn food into energy and transmits electrical impulses across nerves and muscles. Magnesium is critical to healthy heart function and seems to protect against heart disease and high blood pressure. Copper works with the oxygen in your body and is involved in a number of processes, including metabolism and healing.
Look for small-to-medium-size roots that are firm, smooth and well shaped. The flesh should be white or cream-colored. Soft, yellow, rubbery or shriveled roots indicate an old parsnip. Steer clear of very large parsnips because they're likely to be woody-textured and tough.
Parsnips are available year-round but are at their best in fall and winter.
Storage and Handling
Store parsnips in a plastic bag in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Before storing parsnips, remove the green tops.
The skin of young parsnips may be peeled. However, older parsnips will need about 10 minutes of boiling before the skin can be removed. Parsnips make an excellent low-calorie substitute for starches such as pasta or rice. Puree or mash parsnips and add to casseroles, soups and stews. You can also boil, steam or microwave parsnips. To retain sweetness, take care not to overcook. Top off with a dollop of yogurt and curry sauce and enjoy!
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